Society for the Anthropology of Religion
Oral Presentation Session
Hauntology is Derrida’s term for the lingering presence or felt absence of the dead that has the potential to link individual deaths and experiences of mourning to broader scales of social change. I reframe hauntology as a clash of chronotopes that activates a passionate politics of presence. Asking how the dead are remembered, recognized, and called into (or forced out of) co-presence reminds us that co-presence, even among the living, is an interactional process. Forms of co-presence vary across semiotic ideologies and the participation frameworks these entail. Deaths, especially in conditions of violence, trauma, and other existential threats to a social group, can produce uncanny and conflicted co-presences of the dead, which I describe as the ghost chronotope.
To illustrate, I compare religious and political performances of mourning across the African Diaspora and Americas. The chronotope of spirit-presence in Cuban popular religion sensitizes the living to the dead, such that national heroes and martyrs haunt ostensibly secular, state-sanctioned commemorations. How might these embodied Cuban practices that recognize the immanence of the dead inform our understanding of mourning as a political response to historical and contemporary trauma in (and beyond) the African Diaspora, including in re-enactments of lynching and violent deaths at the hands of law enforcement in the U.S. and in protests mobilizing images of the dead throughout the Americas? Beyond Toni Morrison’s “rememory,” I argue that the clashing chronotopes of mourning bring the suffering, heroic subject into co-presence, thereby cultivating a passionate moral imagination and demonstrating political agency.